Our graduates’ stories: Promising a brighter future

Faculty of Education
Faculty of Science
Laila Osman and Shilo Rousseau
Left: Laila Osman, Bachelor of Education - Faculty of Education; right: Shilo Rousseau, HonBSc in Biology - Faculty of Science.
Every Convocation gives us a look at the range of lived experiences, the amount of work accomplished and the determination necessary to pursue university studies.

Our graduates embody the richness and diversity of our university, and all have their own story to tell. Their unique paths hold the promise of a brighter future.

Let’s highlight our new graduating class. Congratulations to our 2024 graduates!

Laila Osman – A Journey in Education

Laila Osman’s educational journey is a testament to her dedication and vision. Growing up, Laila was enrolled in the French immersion program of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, so she developed a passion for languages and education early on.

This passion led her to the University of Ottawa, where she graduated summa cum laude from the Honours Bachelor of Health Sciences program. This year, she is completing an undergraduate degree in education in the primary/junior level, French-as-a-Second Language division, again achieving summa cum laude. In the fall, she will continue her studies by enrolling in a master’s degree in education, with a concentration that focuses on societies, cultures, and languages.

Laila’s goal to become an elementary teacher was further solidified when she studied French as a second language, and during her research experiences at uOttawa. Her initial research began while studying health sciences with her participation in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP).

Knowing that her future would be in education but not necessarily in health sciences, Laila began researching uOttawa professors working in her preferred area and found Dr. Jessica Whitley, whose online bio included research on inclusive education and the well-being of students with exceptionalities. Laila was intrigued. She reached out to Dr. Whitley, who agreed to supervise Laila’s qualitative research, which resulted in a successful UROP presentation on peer relationships in children with special educational needs and how they were impacted during pandemic school closures.

This led to further research and to co-authoring a paper with Dr. Whitley that was published in Child: Care, Health and Development titled: Parent perceptions of social well-being in children with special education needs during COVID-19.

Laila Osman
uograd 2024

“I had a great feeling of pride after being published. It was a motivating experience, and the topic was obviously so important.”

Laila Osman

— Bachelor of Education, Faculty of Education

Laila credits Dr. Whitley, and educators Meaghan Samuel, John Saschenbrecker, and Antonia Cetin, for their guidance, inspiration, and support. She highlights their patience and encouragement as crucial to her academic achievements.

In addition to her academic pursuits, Laila has been active in volunteering. She served as her cohort’s representative with the Faculty of Education Student Association, through which she earned the Peer Excellence Award in honour of her exceptional dedication to education, friendship and peer support. She also spent several years as an executive member of the University of Ottawa Lebanese Cultural Club. During her studies in health sciences, Laila volunteered with UNICEF and the University of Ottawa Health Promotion’s Peer Wellness team. These experiences were invaluable in shaping her teaching philosophy and skills.

Laila’s love of cultures and languages drives her towards her master’s degree. “It’s important to be a culturally responsive educator for my students. This master’s degree will definitely help me grow in that sense,” she explains.

In the longer term, Laila sees herself involved in curriculum design and development with the Ontario Ministry of Education. This ambitious graduate has meticulously planned each step of her journey, ensuring a bright future in the field of education.

Shilo Rousseau: Balancing academics and athletics

Shilo Rousseau stands out, not just for her academic achievements but also for her extraordinary discipline and organization. When she receives her Honours BSc in Biology from the Faculty of Science, she will take the stage as class valedictorian — a testament to her remarkable journey.

While excelling in her studies, she also shone on the international sports stage, particularly in the biathlon. At the 2023 International University Sports Federation (FISU) events, she took two gold medals and a silver, followed by a bronze in a 7 km sprint and another gold in the 10 km pursuit race just days later. Not only did she make history as the first Canadian athlete to reach the podium at the FISU Games, but she also had the honour of waving the Canadian flag as she crossed the finish line in her first-place race.

Athletic excellence runs in Shilo’s family. Her father, a former biathlete and member of the Canadian national team, inspired her to get involved in the sport at the age of 12. Despite his Olympic dreams being cut short by an injury, his legacy continues through Shilo, who joined the Canadian national biathlon team last year and hopes to compete in international races this December.

Managing her time has been crucial for Shilo.

Shilo Rousseau
uograd 2024

“You need to be very structured with your time, be disciplined and make your own schedule.”

Shilo Rousseau

— HonBSc in Biology, Faculty of Science

Balancing training, travelling, studying and researching required a high level of organization. At times, she considered moving to Canmore, Alberta, to focus solely on biathlon, but she remained committed to her academic pursuits.

Shilo’s academic journey has been equally impressive.  At uOttawa, she’s conducted research in areas such as ecology, evolution, molecular biology and cell physiology. She received an NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award twice.

During the summer before her fourth year, she worked full time on her honours research project in the Jonz Lab, investigating potassium channel function in goldfish retina cells. In her final year, she researched RNA transcript levels of DICER in ants in the Rajakumar Lab.

This fall, Shilo will begin her master’s in cellular and molecular medicine at uOttawa. She’ll explore whether altering the function of subventricular zone-derived reactive astrocytes in mouse models can promote stroke recovery. “I’m a very self-directed person, so I think I’ll do well in a master’s project — I like conducting my own research, and this is an area I’m very passionate about,” she says.

Shilo plans to develop this research into a PhD or use it to advance her career in medicine. Her long-term goals are ambitious yet clear:  to become a medical researcher and/or practising physician, contributing to the field of medicine.